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  • A swarm contains up to 150 million locusts per square kilometers and can eat up enough crops in a day to feed 35,000 people.

    A swarm contains up to 150 million locusts per square kilometers and can eat up enough crops in a day to feed 35,000 people. | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 January 2020
Opinion

Ethiopia and Somalia had not seen such swarms of locusts in 25 years, and Kenya had not faced a threat of this magnitude in 70 years.

A massive locust invasion is currently threatening food security for the already vulnerable communities of the Horn of Africa, from Ethiopia to Kenya to Somalia, the United Nations (U.N.) said.

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Ethiopia and Somalia had not seen such swarms in 25 years, and Kenya had not faced a threat of this magnitude in 70 years.

A report released last week by a U.N. agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that “the current swarms represent an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in the Horn of Africa,” where pastures and crops are heavily threatened.

The FAO also informed that "A potentially threatening situation is developing along both sides of the Red Sea, where ongoing breeding is causing locust numbers to increase on the coasts of Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen."

Adding that "there is a risk that some swarms could appear in northeast Uganda, southeast South Sudan, and southwest Ethiopia."

The principal method used to combat locust swarms is the aerial spraying of pesticides.

Although "ground and aerial control operations continue in Ethiopia and aerial operations started in Kenya in January," the report notes that "insecurity and a lack of national capacity have hampered control operations in Somalia."

The U.N. agency has been calling for a border-spanning campaign to fight the locusts and impede them to spread to other countries.

It requested US$70 million, and the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) agreed on Jan. 24 to release US$10 million to the agency.

A swarm contains up to 150 million locusts per square kilometers and can eat up enough crops in a day to feed 35,000 people, according to FAO.

"This devastating locust outbreak is starting to destroy vegetation across East Africa with alarming speed and ferocity," U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said in a statement.

"Vulnerable families that were already dealing with food shortages now face the prospect of watching as their crops are destroyed before their eyes...if left unchecked, this outbreak has the potential to spill over into more countries in East Africa with horrendous consequences," Lowcock added, saying the funds will help to bolster aerial operations. 

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